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Birmingham library: an open and shut case


I have just seen David Rollason's letter (AJ 2.5.02), responding to mine (AJ 21.3.02).

Rollason comments on my 'call for the Central Library in Birmingham to be listed'. What I in fact wrote was that 'civic architecture of this quality from an earlier era would be listed', but editorial intervention altered my text to read that the library should be listed. I objected at the time, pointing out that, 'before saying 'should', the whole picture needs examining - but prima facie there is a case before this 30-year building is torn down'.

Rollason comments that before the central courtyard was altered to accommodate fastfood outlets, 'it was not a particularly appealing place to be in - if you weren't going to the library, you didn't go there'. This seems appropriate to a library. The same might be said, even now, about the British Museum courtyard. Though I do not know Birmingham very well, no one would question the advantages of being able to cross the inner ring road at ground level.

Rollason finally comments that we should not forget that the previous 'beautifully crafted' city library was demolished to make way for John Madin's current Central Library. But it is not irrelevant that the former city library had a lifespan of more than 100 years from 1863 to the late 1960s, whereas under present plans, Madin's Library is to be allowed a lifespan of little more than 30.

James Dunnett, London N1

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